Friday, February 4, 2011

The Stupid, It Burns...

In two previous posts I covered Bill O'Reilly's ridiculous arguments for a creator. I happened upon a YouTube video where he responds to someone who points out that we do in fact know how tides work. He does so by smugly asking a bunch more science questions and declaring unbelievers "desperate." Of course, it takes far less time to ask these questions than to answer them, so believers could easily gain a false sense of confidence from a response like this one.

First I'll point out the obvious: once again, many of the phenomena O'Reilly refers to have already been explained by scientists. We have a fairly good idea of how the sun and the moon formed. We aren't yet sure how life first began (though we have several hypotheses), but abiogenesis is a difficult and fairly new field of study, so that's not at all surprising. As for why there's life here as opposed to elsewhere, Earth happens to be a Goldilocks planet; it's simply a matter of having the right conditions.

But this is all moot, because in Bill's mind, the best solution is clearly to posit an all-powerful being who magically answers all of our questions. Naturally it doesn't occur to him that this is a classic example of the "God of the gaps" fallacy: we can't yet explain X, therefore God did it. Richard Dawkins said it very well in a discussion with O'Reilly back in 2009: "it's the most extraordinary piece of warped logic to say that because science can't answer a particular question, you're going to throw in your lot with Jesus."

What I thought was especially funny (and sad) about this video is that O'Reilly actually sounds annoyed that we can explain the tides. To him, this fact is not a valuable piece of knowledge, but an obstacle to his wonderment. If all of us had this mentality, we'd still believe in a sun that revolves around a flat earth. O'Reilly just doesn't seem to understand that the gaps in our knowledge are closing, that we're slowly but steadily explaining all the phenomena that were once attributed to God. Given this trend, why should we expect the currently unexplained information to be any different?

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